Food is love.
I was raised that way; there needs to be a lot of food and it should taste good. It doesn't have to look perfect, but often it looks and tastes pretty good. I turn to food to celebrate, to comfort, to show love and appreciation. I cook to relax, for a challenge, to escape. I have a husband and two children, and I think about food constantly. Who has eaten what and how much? Thomas wants cereal for breakfast again! What should I pack in Elise's no-nuts, kosher-style-meat-free lunch?
So for my first post, I wanted to talk about food. And what is the quintessential food to me? Chicken. Boring old roast chicken. Bear with me.
Everyone has an opinion on how to make a chicken. There are so many decisions for such a simple dish. Stuff the cavity or don't? And with what? Cover or let it breathe? Truss or not? Baste the skin? You get the picture. I've tried them all.
When I had my first-born in Nov. 2011, a healthy 7 lb. girl we named Elise, the first meal I made was a chicken. This was after weeks of clumsily learning how to bathe and dress a teensy little person. As I unwrapped that chicken over the sink, I was shocked at how like my little round-bellied, leggy infant it felt. As I rinsed it (Another debate! To rinse or not?), it was exactly like bathing Elise. I didn't eat much of that particular chicken.
Fast-forward two years and my son, Thomas, came out as easily and sweetly as his personality remained. The first night home I strapped him to me and roasted up a chicken. I was proud of myself for feeling good enough and in-control enough to make the family a dinner. Another time I'll tell you about how postpartum depression sometimes sneaks up on you several months later.
So, that was a good chicken.
I find myself making chicken now when I want to go out for the night with my girlfriends. Mark (husband/daddy) thinks a roast chicken is a special, amazing meal. Before we were married he would frequently fry and consume an entire shrink-wrapped ham steak for his dinner. Gross. Kids like chicken. A whole bird is awesome for leftovers. I only cook every other day, so that 2nd day is either leftovers, or takeout. (God bless NYC.) And my favorite aspect of roasting a chicken is making stock, then soup, out of the carcass.
So, here is tonight's chicken, which will be enjoyed by my family while I am sipping cocktails and snacking on cheese and pate at Wayland in the East Village with my girlfriends. I have just 8 months left in this city before we move to our house in New Jersey, two doors down from Sydney, full-time. I'm savoring every moment. The city and the food.
1 chicken (3ish lbs.)
2 T. butter (melted)
1 T. coarse or kosher salt
1 T. fresh ground pepper (or less if you aren't into pepper)
Old bread (I'm using a grainy loaf I bought in the 'burbs at the farmer's market)
Onion, cut into eight chunks. Sometimes I peel, it sometimes I don't.
Maldon salt flakes
Place bread on the bottom of a roasting pan. This comes from a New York Times recipe.
Unwrap chicken but don't rinse, per my friend Brian. Liberally salt and pepper cavity, because most people agree that's best. Stuff with onion pieces, because my mom said so. Place chicken in pan on top of bread pieces.
Separate skin from breasts and rub under skin with butter, because Mimi Thorisson said so. Rub butter on skin and sprinkle with Maldon salt flakes and lots of pepper because that's what I think is the most delicious.
Salty, buttery, peppery, crisp chicken skin. Yum. Cover with foil, also because my mom says so, and stick in the oven for 1 1/2 hours or so, depending on size of the chicken. Check for juices to run clear from leg joint or for a temperature of 165 degrees. I finished mine in the oven without a foil cover for a few minutes because I like a very crispy skin.